Live long and prosper? Demographic trends and their implications for living standards

People are living longer. This is good news of course. A longer life is in and of itself a boost to living standards for individuals and reflects a more prosperous society. But it raises challenges too. For the individual, living longer creates a need for greater lifetime income to sustain a given standard of living. For the state, a growing older population raises questions on the allocation of resources across generations.

The debate on living standards tends to concentrate on a snapshot of household resources today or over the near term. However, this narrow focus ignores the impact of demographic change, which plays out over decades with seemingly little immediate impact. Yet these very long-term shifts in the make-up of the population are arguably as important to living standards debates as the slow, almost decade-long recovery in incomes to pre-2008 levels.

This report for the Intergenerational Commission explores how the UK population changed over the last century and is set to change in this one. It provides an initial take on the implications for living standards across the lifetime, for individuals in different generations and for the state. These are themes that will be returned to in more detail by the Commission.